By Ellen Forman
Back in 2015, Richard Laviña (MAcc ‘13) was rising through the ranks at accounting giant PwC. He was offered a job at the firm’s national headquarters in New Jersey, required for all partnership candidates, which meant leaving his Miami home and family.
Hitting what he called “a fork in the road,” he turned the opportunity down. And with the decision to stay, Laviña’s entrepreneurial streak, nurtured since he was a kid, took hold.
He had been tossing around ideas about a more efficient way to do tax returns outside the big-firm model. In 2015, those ideas took shape in Taxfyle, which uses an algorithm to match clients’ tax return work with skilled freelance CPAs.
Described as an “Uber for accounting,” Taxfyle’s software allows individuals and companies to post their accounting jobs to a central website. The company’s version of “drivers” are CPAs who register on the website and take on work as they are available, completing anything from a simple 1040 to a complex corporate case.
Six years later, Taxfyle has signed on over 3,200 CPAs, a number that grows each day, and clients in 14 countries. The company has raised $11 million in four rounds of funding with more on the way. The company’s gig offerings are a good fit for a generation seeking work-life balance, or for corporate accounting staff members looking to pick up extra work.
Laviña, Taxfyle co-founder and CEO, shared his experience as an accountant and entrepreneur at his talk, “Redefining Accounting,” part of Wertheim Wisdom Wednesday, a virtual version of the Wertheim lecture series. Speaking to an audience of students, alumni and others, Laviña stressed that while working for a major accounting firm was a great opportunity that he still appreciates, it wasn’t the only path to moving forward for accounting grads.
Background in “Big Four” and agility are keys to success.
In his undergraduate years at the University of Miami, Laviña ran a tutoring company and wrote a SAT math preparation book, among other ventures. After college, he started his career at local and regional accounting firms, bouncing between audit and tax, and wound up at PwC, “what everyone in the accounting industry wants.” He had the opportunity to work with some of Miami’s most admired corporations and traveled around the world on merger and acquisition deals.
“Heading right out of college into audit/tax is the path of least resistance. You know the salary and you know the path.” And, he said, “PwC was fantastic. I wouldn’t be here without that experience.”
He encourages entrepreneurship that’s grounded on experience and agility, balanced with an individual’s own risk tolerance.
“Be honest with yourself about the risks you want to take – and have realistic expectations,” he said. “There’s definitely ways to do it. At night, start working with a team you eventually want to be on.”
This post was first published in FIU Biz News.